Woman and Labour
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Originally published in 1911, "Woman and Labour" is a landmark work of feminist literature that deals with historical and societal issues of the role of women and the differences between the sexes. Olive Schreiner (1855–1920) was a South African anti-war campaigner, intellectual, and author most famous for her highly-acclaimed novel “The Story of an African Farm” (1883), which deals with such issues as existential independence, agnosticism, individualism, and the empowerment of women. Other notable works by this author include: “Closer Union: a Letter on South African Union and the Principles of Government” (1909), and “Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland” (1897). Read & Co. History is proudly republishing this classic work now in a new edition complete with a specially-commissioned new biography of the author.



Publié par
Date de parution 12 décembre 2014
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781473397156
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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First published in 1911

Copyright © 2020 Read & Co. History
This edition is published by Read & Co. History, an imprint of Read & Co.
This book is copyright and may not be reproduced or copied in any way without the express permission of the publisher in writing.
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Read & Co. is part of Read Books Ltd. For more information visit www.readandcobooks.co.uk

Dedicated to Constance Lytton

“Glory of warrior, glory of orator, glory of song,
Paid with a voice flying by to be lost on an endless sea—
Glory of virtue, to fight, to struggle, to right the wrong—
Nay, but she aim’d not at glory, no lover of glory she:
Give her the glory of going on and still to b e.”

Oli ve Schreiner

Olive Schreiner
Olive Schreiner was born on Wittebergen Reserve, Cape Colony (present-day Lesotho) in 1855. After finishing school, she found work as a governess and a schoolteacher, and during her free time began to work on a novel about her experiences in S outh Africa.
When Schreiner had saved enough money, she travelled to Britain, hoping to become a doctor. She lived in London where she began attending lectures at the Medical School, as well as attending socialist meetings. Schreiner met the publisher George Meredith, who in 1883 published her best-known novel, Story of an African Farm . A commercial and critical success, it is now seen as a defining work of early feminism – as is her later work, Women and La bour (1911).
Over the rest of her life, Schreiner made the acquaintance of a number of figures in London society, including future Prime Minister William Gladstone. In 1889, she returned to South Africa to be with her family. Her brother, William Schreiner, later became prime minister of Cape Colony. Over the next few years she published two collections of short stories, Dreams (1891) and Dream Life and Real Life (1893). She also became heavily involved in politics, and was a fierce opponent of racism and imperialism. Her 1897 work Trooper Peter Halkett of Mashonaland (1897) was a strong attack on British rule in S outh Africa.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Schreiner moved back to Britain. Over the next four years she was active in the peace movement and worked closely with organizations such as the Union of Democratic Control and the Non-Conscription Fellowship. She returned to South Africa in of August 1920, and dying following a heart attack late r that year.

It is necessary to say a few words to explain this book. The original title of the book was “Musings on Woman and Labour.”
It is, what its name implies, a collection of musings on some of the points connected with w oman’s work.
In my early youth I began a book on Woman. I continued the work till ten years ago. It necessarily touched on most matters in which sex has a part, however i ncompletely.
It began by tracing the differences of sex function to their earliest appearances in life on the globe; not only as when in the animal world, two amoeboid globules coalesce, and the process of sexual generation almost unconsciously begins; but to its yet more primitive manifestations in plant life. In the first three chapters I traced, as far as I was able, the evolution of sex in different branches of non-human life. Many large facts surprised me in following this line of thought by their bearing on the whole modern sex problem. Such facts as this; that, in the great majority of species on the earth the female form exceeds the male in size and strength and often in predatory instinct; and that sex relationships may assume almost any form on earth as the conditions of life vary; and that, even in their sexual relations towards offspring, those differences which we, conventionally, are apt to suppose are inherent in the paternal or the maternal sex form, are not inherent—as when one studies the lives of certain toads, where the female deposits her eggs in cavities on the back of the male, where the eggs are preserved and hatched; or, of certain sea animals, in which the male carries the young about with him and rears them in a pouch formed of his own substance; and countless other such. And above all, this important fact, which had first impressed me when as a child I wandered alone in the African bush and watched cock-o-veets singing their inter-knit love-songs, and small singing birds building their nests together, and caring for and watching over, not only their young, but each other, and which has powerfully influenced all I have thought and felt on sex matters since;—the fact that, along the line of bird life and among certain of its species sex has attained its highest and aesthetic, and one might almost say intellectual, development on earth: a point of development to which no human race as a whole has yet reached, and which represents the realisation of the highest sexual ideal which haun ts humanity.
When these three chapters we ended I went on to deal, as far as possible, with woman’s condition in the most primitive, in the savage and in the semi-savage states. I had always been strangely interested from childhood in watching the condition of the native African women in their primitive society about me. When I was eighteen I had a conversation with a Kafir woman still in her untouched primitive condition, a conversation which made a more profound impression on my mind than any but one other incident connected with the position of woman has ever done. She was a woman whom I cannot think of otherwise than as a person of genius. In language more eloquent and intense than I have ever heard from the lips of any other woman, she painted the condition of the women of her race; the labour of women, the anguish of woman as she grew older, and the limitations of her life closed in about her, her sufferings under the condition of polygamy and subjection; all this she painted with a passion and intensity I have not known equalled; and yet, and this was the interesting point, when I went on to question her, combined with a deep and almost fierce bitterness against life and the unseen powers which had shaped woman and her conditions as they were, there was not one word of bitterness against the individual man, nor any will or intention to revolt; rather, there was a stern and almost majestic attitude of acceptance of the inevitable; life and the conditions of her race being what they were. It was this conversation which first forced upon me a truth, which I have since come to regard as almost axiomatic, that, the women of no race or class will ever rise in revolt or attempt to bring about a revolutionary readjustment of their relation to their society, however intense their suffering and however clear their perception of it, while the welfare and persistence of their society requires their submission: that, wherever there is a general attempt on the part of the women of any society to readjust their position in it, a close analysis will always show that the changed or changing conditions of that society have made woman’s acquiescence no longer necessary o r desirable.
Another point which it was attempted to deal with in this division of the book was the probability, amounting almost to a certainty, that woman’s physical suffering and weakness in childbirth and certain other directions was the price which woman has been compelled to pay for the passing of the race from the quadrupedal and four-handed state to the erect; and which was essential if humanity as we know it was to exist (this of course was dealt with by a physiological study of woman’s structure); and also, to deal with the highly probable, though unproved and perhaps unprovable, suggestion, that it was largely the necessity which woman was under of bearing her helpless young in her arms while procuring food for them and herself, and of carrying them when escaping from enemies, that led to the entirely erect position being forced on developi ng humanity.
These and many other points throwing an interesting light on the later development of women (such as the relation between agriculture and the subjection of women) were gone into in this division of the book dealing with primitive and semi-barbarou s womanhood.
When this division was ended, I had them type-written, and with the first three chapters bound in one volume about the year 1888; and then went on to work at the last division, which I had al ready begun.
This dealt with what is more popularly known as the women’s question: with the causes which in modern European societies are leading women to attempt readjustment in their relation to their social organism; with the direction in which such readjustments are taking place; and with the results which in the future it appears likely such readjustments w ill produce.
After eleven years, 1899, these chapters were finished and bound in a large volume with the first two divisions. There then only remained to revise the book and write a preface. In addition to the prose argument I had in each chapter one or more allegories; because while it is easy clearly to express abstract thoughts in argumentative prose, whatever emotion those thoughts awaken I have not felt myself able adequately to e

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